Thursday, February 22, 2007

For All The Right Reasons (Afterthoughts)

It's a fairy tale of how two footballers who got the majority of the media attention throughout the week, went from zero to hero. John Arne Riise and Bellamy's name were all over the newspaper world wide after they reportedly did something out of this world during their training camp in Algarve, Portugal. It was reported that 'Bellers' went berserk and used a golf club and attempted to hit Riise's leg after the Norwegian declined to sing in a karaoke session.

Truth or not, we're not sure. But judging by Craig Bellamy's goal celebration last night, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that all is well in the Reds camp and also, he did it sarcastically to have a dig at the press.

I even joked that the golf club hit Riise on the right foot and now, it made it work! I've never seen Riise shooting with his right foot and with that sort of accuracy!

Most importantly, they're the catalyst of a seemingly impossible job over at the Nou Camp. To defeat Barcelona at their own back yard. And I must say, I'm very proud of the players and their efforts despite the fact that we didn't play well at all. It's one of those awkward feeling after you watched a match.

It was quite painful to watch as Liverpool seemed an echelon below Barcelona in terms of technical ability. We're unable to hold on to the ball and the passing was dreadful at times. I even thought we've allowed far too much space for their attacking minded players to exploit. Thankfully, they were not in their best as well.

Fluid, fast paced and precise. Those words are used to describe the way Barcelona plays. With players like Ronaldinho, Deco, Saviola, Messi and Xavi, they're supposed to be the team to beat. But last night, only their physical body turned up. They were complacent, lacklustre and simply, not hungry enough.

They went ahead through Deco's header after they finally settled down at their home ground and only some desperate defending kept them at bay. But gradually, Barcelona became slow and insipid. They're just stroking the ball to and fro without any purpose and directions.

Maybe they thought by keeping the ball, they'll ease through. How wrong were they?

Remember, this is the Liverpool team that have the habit to come back from behind not once but on many occasions. We might not be as clinical as most of the top sides but we can be sure we HAVE the quality to punish people.

We scored a really soft goal that we didn't really deserve to be honest. I was really surprise it went in because we didn't give them any sort of problem except for the opening few minutes. Perhaps, a lack of concentration from the Barca defence gifted it. Valdes continued the trend of dodgy Spanish goalkeepers.

Reina was the other example of how his inexperience could've cost us the game. Twice in the last 10 minutes, he flapped and we're plucky to survive. But don't take the credit away, he made some crucial saves and a brilliant interception after Saviola was put through.

Tactically, I think Rafa got it right but the team didn't really performed up to his desired standards. I'm sure he wants the team to keep it tight and compact at the back and hold them for as long as they could. But once again, we saw how Rafa out-thought his opponent Frank Rijkaard. He was careful with his selection and very detailed.

Placing debutant, Alvaro Arbeloa on the left seemed a little puzzling but we saw why. He was there to nullify Messi's threat as the Argentinian whiz kid loves to cut in with his stronger left foot. That will ensure he gets into Arbeloa's strong side as well. Although he had his thumb print on the first goal with a poor positional play, he regained confidence and saved our arse with that crucial block on Messi's shot.

Another play that deserves the plaudits will have to be none other than the half man-half machine, Momo Sissoko. The criticism of his lack of technically ability especially passing, are well documented and last night, we saw how wasteful he was at times. But it's his defensive quality that we should all be impressed with.

He was all over the pitch. Deco got the ball and you'll see his shadow. Ronaldinho got it and he won't be far behind. He covered almost every blade of grass at Nou Camp and deserves the man of the match award given by UEFA.

It was an unexpected result even for the most optimistic fans. A draw would be a good result but we know, as Liverpool, we should start to remove the tag of the underdog and show everyone who we really are. The standards of that glorious 70s-80s Liverpool team are hard to surpass but I believe that with Rafa, we could go all the way from here.

Of course, this is only half time. We should not get carried away. Players will now need to stay focus for the second leg a fortnight away and get a good result. Knocking Barcelona off the competition will no doubt feel great. Now Rafa will have to mastermind yet another great result at Anfield.

Bad display but excellent result. That's championship form, I tell ya!


psychohare said...

yea man, u got it right.
basically what i thought was that Momo's presence is very important, coz of his persistent and irritating tackles, and he really was everywhere doing the dirty work.
Like u said, we won despite having a sub-par performance, promising despite our goal-scoring woes.
One thing i know for sure about the GOLF frenzy is that Bellamy admitted in an interview after the Barca game that it was his fault, but everything was settled really quickly coz of how strict Rafa was, and it ended as soon as it started. The press just blew it up that's all. wanna watch that interview? check out skysports.
We know Rafa, hes not gonna let us blow that lead away. I'm confident we will qualify for the next round.


I never mention Carragher in there as well. I thought he had a pretty good game together with Agger.

I'm confident we''ll hold them out and advance into the quarter finals.